The responses of spinothalamic tract cells in the lumbosacral spinal cords of anesthetized monkeys were examined following electrical stimulation of the sural nerve or the application of noxious thermal and mechanical stimuli to the skin on the lateral aspect of the foot. The spinothalamic tract neurons were classified as wide dynamic range (WDR), high-threshold (HT), or low-threshold (LT) cells on the basis of their responses to mechanical stimuli. All of the WDR and HT spinothalamic tract cells tested responded to volleys in A- and C-fibers. However, strong C-fiber responses were more common in HT than in WDR cells. The responses attributed to C-fibers were graded with the size of the C-fiber volley. The latencies of the responses attributed to C-fibers indicated that the fastest afferents involved had a mean conduction velocity of 0.9 m/s. The responses remained after anodal blockade of conduction in A-fibers. Temporal summation of the responses of spinothalamic tract cells was demonstrated both to brief trains of stimuli at 33 Hz and to single stimuli repeated at 1- and 2-s intervals. The latter phenomenon is often called 'windup'. The responses of several spinothalamic tract cells to noxious heat pulses could still be elicited during anodal blockade of conduction in A-fibers. Similarly, it was possible to demonstrate an excitatory action of noxious mechanical stimuli despite interference with conduction in A-fibers by anodal current. The cells investigated were located either in the marginal zone or in the layers of the dorsal horn equivalent to Rexed's laminae IV-VI in the cat. The cells were generally activated antidromically from the caudal part of the ventral posterior lateral nucleus of the thalamus.
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